How Ronan Levy Made the Leap From Law to Mental Health Care
Former Bay Streeter Ronan Levy co-founded the next big thing in health care: Field Trip, a therapy company that uses psychedelic drugs, is now valued at $300 million and has clinics in Canada, the U.S. and Australia.
After studying business and then law at the University of Toronto, I started working on Bay Street at one of the most prestigious corporate law firms. I thought that was the path I was supposed to be on. But during my articling year, I put together an advertisement for a fundraiser that went out to the entire company and one of the partners wrote back, “Are you too creative to be a lawyer?”
I became an entrepreneur, and my first business was called Toronto Gold. I’d never had aspirations to be a cash-for-gold person, but I quickly learned that you can create a great business if you’re willing to wade into an area where most people are afraid to go—or don’t want to go for reputational reasons—and bring authenticity, transparency and legitimacy.
Soon after, I met Joseph del Moral and Hannan Fleiman, two of the other co-founders of Field Trip. (There are five of us in total.) I was doing some freelance legal work for them while they considered ideas for ventures together. One of them was to create an online marketplace for medical cannabis. They had some reservations about it, but I told them, “You don’t often get an opportunity where a multibillion-dollar industry goes legal overnight.” We joined forces and started the marketplaces CanvasRx and Canadian Cannabis Clinics.
The experience opened my eyes to how life-changing medical cannabis can be. After the companies were acquired by Aurora Cannabis in 2016, Joseph, Hannan and I then created a company called Grassfed Ventures to do some investing and advising in the cannabis industry. One of the first meetings we had was with Judy Blumstock, the founder and CEO of Diamond Therapeutics. She told us about psilocybin-assisted therapy and how effective it is—like 10 years of psychotherapy in a single afternoon. We spent a lot of time thinking about what we could do with psychedelics. Unlike cannabis, which had a clear platform to build a business, psychedelics weren’t mainstream yet. So we cold-emailed Michael Pollan, whose book How to Change Your Mind had recently come out. And we had conversations with other leaders in psychedelics. The consistent feedback was that the industry needed new clinical infrastructure to deliver these therapies, because this is not the kind of stuff you want to do in a doctor’s office with white walls and fluorescent lights. We had started and sold a business in one stigmatized medical area, so we knew we could do it again.
“We had started and sold a business in one stigmatized medical area, so we knew we could do it again”
Field Trip was born from there. The company was initially funded by Joseph, Hannan and me, as well as our other two co-founders, Mujeeb Jafferi and Ryan Yermus. We did our first round of financing in July 2019 and opened our first ketamine clinic in Toronto in March of 2020. Since then, we’ve opened six more clinics—in the United States and Amsterdam. But our most pivotal moment happened recently: We closed a round of financing led by Bloom Burton, which brought in some of the world’s leading and most sophisticated biotech and pharma investors.
We now have two divisions. There’s Field Trip Health, which is building out our physical infrastructure; we’ll be at 20 locations before the end of 2021. And we have Field Trip Discovery, which is centred around advancing preclinical work on a next-generation psychedelic molecule that we expect to have approval for by 2027.
As we continue to grow, my role is about honing the brand strategy and acting as an ambassador, not only for the company but also for psychedelics more broadly, helping to bring them into the mainstream. It’s not just about bringing a business to market; it’s about creating a movement. It’s about changing how people think about mental health and their lives.